A red horse with flashy chrome was always my thing. And, thanks to Walter Farley, Arabians were my breed of choice. When my good (red and flashy) horse aged and passed, I took a few years off to have a baby. After that I decided to replace him with one of the same appearance and fiery disposition. I did so, and soon discovered that I wasn’t seventeen any more, nor did I possess the fitness or the nerve to ride like I was. Ms Flashy Replacement knocked me down so many pegs that I questioned everything I thought I knew about horses and riding. (Full story here.)
In 2008, after subsisting on a continuous diet of equestrian humble pie, I brought home a decidedly un-flashy and un-fiery plain bay horse who was so puny that he could barely grow a winter coat, let alone buck me off or run away with me. (Full story here.) I gratefully rode Billy around the farm for 10 years. He became a pampered pet instead of the overworked rental trail horse he once was. Last winter was particularly hard on him; he’s at least thirty years old and it shows. He sustained a serious eye injury that resulted in the loss of most of the sight in his “good” eye. (The other one has a cataract) He became too frail, and too spooky to ride at all.
So there I was, with three full stalls and nobody that I could ride. Ms Flashy is still packing a load of drama, and I was not in a place emotionally to deal with it. I needed another Steady Eddie, but I did not go looking – I didn’t have a place to put him anyway.
Then why am I talking about a yellow horse? Apparently there’s been a place carved out in my heart for one that I didn’t know existed. When my son Jordan was little, I took him to see Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, a Dreamworks cartoon that featured a buckskin stallion as protagonist. Mortified, I sat in the theater with “something in my eye” that rivaled my reaction to Terms of Endearment. I had no idea why this movie affected me that way, and I still don’t.
I also have a framed copy of Tony Stromberg’s Fierce Grace hanging in my warehouse office. This horse is not a red, flashy Arabian with chrome – but instead a big buckskin with a long black mane trimmed in wispy white.
So – like that time I was sitting here minding my own business and the next thing I knew we were tearing down a massive barn and using pieces to remodel the house (full story here) – I innocently answered a Facebook friend’s question about something unrelated to horses entirely. All of a sudden, she’s telling me that she’s rehoming one of her good horses. Now, I’ve been creeping this gal’s profile for years, envious of her outdoorsy trail riding adventures in some of the most beautiful country in the USA, riding exceptionally nice horses. The idea of riding one of those well trained, experienced mounts was very attractive to me.
I find myself telling her that if the home prospect she had for the horse doesn’t work out, that I would be interested. Apparently, I completely forgot that all our stalls are currently full. It seemed that her rehoming plan was well forged and on it’s way to completion anyway, so nothing to worry about in the stall building department. But then, a few days later I then find myself meeting for the first time, the giant, yellow, soggy Bennie.
Now, soggy is a word that is new to my vocabulary. In fact, the first time I saw it used to describe a horse for sale (not that I was looking at horses for sale…) I had to Google it. In a nutshell it describes a horse that is obviously heavy with muscle—very strong, thick and stout. More here. At 16.1h and 1,600 pounds, Bennie certainly meets that criteria. I am tall, so pleased with the idea of a mount whose barrel fills in under my leg. Bennie’s previous owner is a couple hands shorter than I – and climbing onto something that big out in the woods did not please her at all.
She tells me he’s been “off” for a while and they can’t sort it out. His hooves abscess frequently in spite of excellent shoeing performed at regular intervals. He’s got a hock that’s bothering him but the latest vet workup yields a prognosis that is “good”. At only ten years old, he’s got many useful years ahead of him, and I, having read a bazillion accounts of barefoot proponents telling about folks pulling shoes off mysteriously lame horses – and them magically becoming sound – I was sure I could do the same. Besides, he was not that lame anyway. I rode him and couldn’t feel that he was off much. The only bad steps he took were when he was asked to turn sharply.
Two weeks later, Bennie was standing in my nice, soft pasture on bare feet. He acclimated easily, and I immediately recruited his services as a prop for taking pictures of HoofPrints new product line for Fall.
He’d only been here a few days when we did this photo shoot, and he was impressively cooperative and engaging. These were taken in a big pasture, and there was nothing stopping him from leaving the scene and going to eat grass. Instead he stayed and did exactly what I needed him to. Look how interested he is in the new purse! I cannot express how much I appreciated that. Can you imagine what it must feel like to a horse, to take a trailer ride and end up in a whole new home where every creature you encounter is a stranger, the food and drink is all completely different and you don’t know where you’re supposed to go or what you’re supposed to do?
He was charming and perfect and I was already fantasizing about gallivanting across the newly harvested fields later that month.
But the gallivanting never came. His footsore-ness steadily increased, no matter what I did or what terrain he was on. His soggy stature was also quite a bit on the plump side, so our thinning grass helped him to slim down considerably. This should have relieved him some by having less weight to carry on his sore feet, but it did not. As winter set in, I curated a diet of clean grass hay with just a tiny bit of low starch pelleted feed to carry his minerals and anti inflammatory meds. He did and does continue to worsen. My vet says his soles are thin and that it’ll take fancy farriery to fix him. But the previous owner had him in everything from bar shoes to pads, with no improvement.
So here I am with yet another horse I can’t ride. A horse whose picture I hung in my office – years before he was even born. A horse who found his way to me when I was not even looking for a horse – in a size, color and shape that I’d never have purposely chosen. I know God’s sending me a lesson here, but I sure can’t figure out what it is. Do I recruit a team of professionals to try to sort this out – even though previous owner did exactly that – and it all failed? Giving him time to heal himself seemed like a good idea when it was winter and nobody was doing much anyway – but now that spring is here and horses should be romping, not hobbling – I am feeling much guilt for my lack of aggressive action. Do I give up and just let him go? Try something else?
Wanna read more?
Is this all I do? Post pictures and stories about life here on the farm? Nope! HoofPrints.com is my “real” job.
You can read more posts about horses here
For more fun on the farm, go here
Adventures in remodeling are here
Is the house haunted? There are some stories about that here
Laughable housekeeping advice is here